Wee Sec There Andrew.....

Broadcaster Andrew Neil's debrief for Jihadist's is probably, and rightly, the most viewed clip in the UK today. In it he lauds French culture citing everything and everyone from Monet to Creme Brulee. Juliette Binoche even gets a mention. Now, while we're generally fans of Mr Neil's here at Crumble Central I do feel obliged to correct a wee omission in his list and that is Melissa Theuriau. Certainly the most beautiful newscaster in the world, possibly the most beautiful women in the world. I haven't got a clue what she's saying but I could listen to that melodious voice all day.

Hodge; Head Dementor of HSBC

Commons Public Accounts Committee - Head Dementor

The insipid performance of Rona Fairhead the other day in front of the Commons Public Accounts Committee was less than inspiring. She allowed herself to be bullied to the point of evisceration by its chair, Margaret Hodge. Rona Fairhead is a director of HSBC and heads the BBC Trust. Mrs Hodge suggested, or demanded, that “you should consider your position and you should think about resigning, and if not, I think the government should sack you.” Fair and even handed then.

HSBC is a global behemoth which is reaping the reward for the stupid Republic National Bank purchase in  1999, for that I suspect is the source of so much of the recent Swiss allegations. After the takeover all those years ago it only took two years for the first fines to appear, $606m in restitution for cheating Japanese customers. That was a $10bn purchase which is right up there in the stupid stakes with the $16bn purchase of Household International, a company that was a serial offender, a few years later. More fines are just inevitable, notwithstanding the growing reputation damage.   

Let’s face it, given the jaw dropping fees and mundane advice received from Swiss Private Banks there are only three reasons to have an account in one. First, to hide money, second, to avoid taxation or third, because you have lost confidence in your country of origins prudential management of its financial system and regard inherent risks as too high not to have a safe bolt hole. Perhaps, all three play a part. On that basis then, Rona Fairhead’s ability to do the “smell test,” of what is reasonable looks impaired and her and other executives excuse that “they didn’t know,” excuses nothing. 

The 2012 300 page Senate report on HSBC, which described its woeful money laundering controls, described the banks compliance culture as “pervasively polluted for a long time.” HSBC is a bank that the UK needs, not least of all because of its long standing Asian links but it is, like many banks, just too big to manage. The organisation badly needs an imaginative go-forward plan. It is unwieldy, inflexible and massively bureaucratic, (someone told me they have 1500 people in change management whatever the hell that is). The shares may be occasionally attractive to short duration traders but as an investment I’m not sure how one begins to attempt to fathom out the complexities of the investment case. There is more we don’t know than there is that we do. 

Mrs Fairhead is by all accounts a decent person but diligence and detail is everything when in a position of responsibility in banks, the personal compliance risks are simply too high for it to be otherwise which is why its becoming increasingly challenging to hire the right people, many of who only see potential reputational downside in accepting senior posts. Moreover, the blank refusal of the previous Labour administration to accept any responsibility for the GFC (Great Financial Crisis), is simply deluded. 

No matter, I’m here to help and Mrs Fairhead may wish to take advice from the brilliant Bird & Fortune in their handling of post crisis interviews.

Come On Down Anne Lundon!

The songs and interviews you will hear were recorded with the 1st World War ex-servicemen at Flanders House in Glasgow just under 30 years ago. 

With the current plethora of Great War documentaries on television it would be easy to become a Great War Grief Groupie, cheek set firmly over to one shoulder and immersed in a constant slaughter / innocents / sad / epoch, social changing loop of evocative “wave the boys goodbye,” nostalgic and theatrical emotional for a lost generation that none of us ever knew but one that we choose to believe we know so well, as if the average Pals Regiment recruit came from next door. It’s true that not a family in the land was left untouched by the Great War and actually, it’s just fantastic to witness the resurgence in interest across all ages in matters historical pertaining to the conflict.

I’ve enjoyed a lifelong interest in the subject and all its geopolitical and social derivatives. The more I learn, the less I realise I really understand.  Just for now though, I would like to share just one wee small part of the massive canvas that is the Great War that utterly fascinates me. That is, the way people talked.

In a time when people could identify one another, their backgrounds, exactly where they came from, (by village, not just general region), by their accents, intonations and slang the sheer richness and depth of speech to me is an utter wonder. What might it have been like to be at Waterloo station as the trains departed for France with the general hubbub all-around of impenetrable fast Buckie voices, deep Hampshire burrs, fast witted cockney, lazy drawling Norfolk………….?  For us, the fantastic diversity of our counties has long been homogenised into approximate North East / North West / South West etc regional groups and as each year passes we lose more of our spoken heritage.

One of the wonders for me then, in watching the Great War documentaries, is to listen to the real voices of Edwardian days. We can though, do better than snatches in a television documentary.

In 1916, an Austrian academic called Alois Brandl made recordings of British prisoners-of-war and their regional accents. By a miracle, they survived the bombing of Berlin in the Second World War while being stored at the Humbolt University and were ultimately tracked down by a linguistics academic called John Adams. Well played John. Treat yourself and take a peek into history by listening to some of these magical recordings.

In fact, the British Library website has literally, a door into another world with various projects such as the Millennium Memory Bank and their survey of English Dialects.

So what can we do? We’re hardly going to adopt an “accent of the week,” and pretend to be Devonshire farmhands from 1912 are we? No we’re not. The BBC are utterly rubbish. Their idea of diversification in being a national broadcaster is to grab the three nearest northerners hanging around their shiny new headquarters in Salford and stick them on the telly but its not really exploiting the breadth that we’re looking for in our wonderful country. ITV though are even worse. They give us bloody Downton Abbey which very much sounds to me as if its cast comes straight from inner-circle-middle-class Fulham in 2014............... well, that's actually what they are but aren't they supposed to be acting as other people? Idle script, idle direction and idle acting. I'd rather spend an hour kissing someone with the Ebola virus than I would watching that drivel.

Crumble then, is here to help.

You can’t get more diverse than the beautifully soft and  melodic accent from Stornaway and that is exactly the sort of thing we need to hear more of to calm us after a stressful day at the office and the bloody awful commute home. Fortunately Anne Lundon, who at present is criminally wasted on BBC Scotland and urgently needs to be brought to the attention of the nation, is waiting for the head honcho’s at the Beep to hear the clarion call from the people.

Let’s celebrate the who and what we are as a country. Come on down Anne, West Sussex is calling.